A Happy New Year to all South Wales Argus readers and Newport East residents. It was a huge honour to be re-elected in May this year and a big thanks to all those constituents who have been in touch to share their views -; in fact some 1,500 of you have contacted me and the constituency office since the election or taken the time to pop along to a surgery.
The biggest post bags since May 7th have been on Syria, where I voted against airstrikes, and the Government’s original plan to cut tax credits which I also voted against. They have also included the significant campaigns on fracking, the Assisted Dying Bill and animal welfare issues, including the Government’s aborted attempt to repeal the fox hunting bill. Locally, the most raised issues have covered overcrowded rail services, more Government support for our steel industry and businesses, and the impact that Government cuts have had on benefits, the Police, and access to legal aid. I have pursued these on your behalf in Parliament and will continue to campaign on them in 2016.
A particular local New Year’s resolution for me is to keep the pressure on the UK Government to substantially reduce the Severn Bridge Tolls in 2018 when the Bridges return to public ownership. They reduced the debt on the Humber Bridge a few years ago to reduce the impact on commuters and businesses and it’s only fair they step in now to say how they will take the pressure off communities in Newport East and for the benefit of South Wales.
At Westminster, I was pleased to see the Government’s about turn in the Autumn Statement on Tax Credit cuts following a strong Labour campaign that would have seen 2,900 families in Newport East lose on average £1,300 a year. However, as always with this Government, the devil is in the detail and the announcement has quickly unravelled. In the small print we now learn that the Chancellor is still taking £10 billion from working families over the course of this Parliament from those currently on Universal Credit and from those who are set to move onto it over the next five years. The Independent Institute of Financial Services research backs this up. They have shown that George Osborne has not reversed his welfare cuts, just delayed them. I know that this is an issue Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State and Pontypridd MP Owen Smith will be leading the charge on, and I know he can be assured of the wholehearted support of local Labour MPs.
And finally a big thanks to all those who work in our public and emergency services over the festive period, helping those in need and keeping us safe.
I hope everyone had a happy, safe and healthy Christmas and I wish you all a Happy New Year.